Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

Rainbow Bridge Haleiwa

By: Lokelani Wilder

            Before the America Rescue Plan, Hawaii would have been $2.4 billion in debt by the end of 2021.  After receipt of Rescue Plan funds, Hawaii will still be roughly $880 million in debt.  The American Rescue Plan adds an additional $2 trillion to the U.S. national debt, raising our debt to $32 trillion by the end of this year.  Now President Joe Biden has a roughly $2 trillion plan for improving the nation’s infrastructure and shifting to greener energy over the next 8 years.  Biden unveiled the effort, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, at a March 2021 event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — the opening move in what’s expected to be a months-long negotiation with Congress.  The nation’s infrastructure is sorely in need of repair. It recently earned a C- score from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which said an additional $2.6 trillion in funding is required over the next decade.  In addition to repairing and modernizing infrastructure, Biden is pitching his infrastructure plan as an investment to benefit communities of color, rural Americans, and others burdened by decay or lagging modernization.  If Biden’s latest plan passes, it will raise America’s national debt by another $2 trillion.  This will put what we owe at more than one and half times the size of our national Gross Domestic Product ($22 trillion).  The current generation will not be able to pay it off.  We will hand the debt to the next generation. 

            What is not counted in the $880 million that Hawaii will still be short, is the estimated $3.5 billion needed to complete the Honolulu Rapid Transit.  This week, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit gave a proposal to stop the project at Middle Street.  Local rail officials put the difference between building the transit line to Middle Street and building all the way to Ala Moana Center at $444 million.  While shortening the line could save hundreds of millions of dollars, rail leaders argue the system would lose nearly half its projected ridership.  Losing half the riders translates to long term loss in operating revenue.  If is too early to tell how much Hawaii will receive from Biden’s American Jobs Plan.

            The American Jobs Plan is the first of a two-part proposal to help the nation’s economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The President is still expected to unveil a package focusing on the care economy, including investments in education and child care, in coming weeks.  The President intends to pay for the two plans by raising corporate taxes – a core campaign promise the administration says would raise more than $2 trillion over the next 15 years.  The President has not ruled out lower tax brackets to where Americans making $200,000 annually are moved into a higher tax bracket.  Undoubtedly, Hawaii will receive funding from the two plans but what is proposed in the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan?

Transportation

            Biden would spend $621 billion on roads, bridges, public transit, rail, ports, waterways, airports and electric vehicles in service of improving air quality, reducing congestion and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.  His proposal calls for allocating $115 billion to modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads and main streets, and $20 billion to improve road safety for all users. It would fix the most economically significant large bridges and repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges.

Biden would also invest $85 billion to modernize existing transit and help agencies expand their systems to meet demand. This would double federal funding for public transit.  Another $80 billion would go to address Amtrak’s repair backlog and modernize the Northeast Corridor line between Boston and Washington DC — the line Biden relied on for decades to get home to Delaware — as well as to connect more cities.  Also, the President would funnel $25 billion to airports and $17 billion to inland waterways, ports and ferries.  Biden is also proposing to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles with a $174 billion investment in the electric vehicle market. It includes giving consumers rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made electric vehicles and establishing grant and incentive programs to build a national network of 500,000 charging stations by 2030. It would also replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles and electrify at least 20% of yellow school buses.

Home Care Services and Workforce

Biden would provide $400 billion to bolster caregiving for aging and disabled Americans.  His plan would expand access to long-term care services under Medicaid, eliminating the wait list for hundreds of thousands of people. It would provide more opportunity for people to receive care at home through community-based services or from family members.  It would also improve the wages of home health workers, who now make approximately $12 an hour. One in six live in poverty, the administration says. It would put in place an infrastructure to give caregiving workers the opportunity to join a union. During his presidential campaign, Biden said he would devote $450 billion to allow more older Americans and their families to receive care at home or in their communities, as opposed to nursing homes and other institutions.

Manufacturing

            Biden wants to put $300 billion toward boosting manufacturing. Under his plan, $50 billion of the money would be invested in semiconductor manufacturing and another $30 billion would go towards medical manufacturing to help shore up the nation’s ability to respond to a future outbreak. Some of the funds would be carved out for manufacturers that focus on clean energy, rural communities, and programs that give small businesses access to credit. About $20 billion would be used to create regional innovation hubs that would support community-led projects. Biden is asking Congress to include $46 billion that would be used to make federal purchases of things like electric cars, charging ports, and electric heat pumps for housing and commercial buildings that would boost the clean energy industry. Biden has already signed an executive order aimed at boosting American manufacturing. It set in motion a process that would change the rules regarding federal spending on American-made goods, equipment, vehicles and materials for infrastructure projects — with a 180-day deadline that comes up in July.

Housing

The plan would invest $213 billion toward building, renovating and retrofitting more than two million homes and housing units.  Biden is calling on Congress to produce, preserve and retrofit more than a million affordable and energy efficient housing units. The plan would also build and rehabilitate more than 500,000 homes for low- and middle-income homebuyers.  The proposal would eliminate exclusionary zoning laws, which the White House says inflates housing and construction costs. Biden is calling on Congress to enact a new grant program that awards flexible funding to jurisdictions that take steps to eliminate barriers to creating affordable housing.  Homes would be upgraded though block grant programs, extending and expanding home and commercial efficiency tax credits and through the Weatherization Assistance Program.

Research and Development

Biden is calling on Congress to invest $180 billion to advance US leadership in critical technologies, upgrade the United States’ research infrastructure and establish the United States as a leader in climate science, innovation and research and development.  His plan would also aim to eliminate racial and gender inequities in research and development and science, technology, engineering and math. Biden is calling on Congress to make research and development investments in historically Black colleges and other minority-serving institutions.

Water

Biden’s plan allocates $111 billion to rebuild the country’s water infrastructure. It would replace all of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines in order to improve the health of American children and communities of color. The White House says replacing the pipes would reduce lead exposure in 400,000 schools and childcare facilities.  The proposal would upgrade the country’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems, tackle new contaminants and support clean water infrastructure in rural parts of the country.

Schools

Biden calls for $100 billion to build new public schools and upgrade existing buildings with better ventilation systems, updated technology labs, and improved school kitchens that can prepare more nutritious meals. Another $12 billion would go to states to use towards infrastructure needs at community colleges. The President is calling for an additional $25 billion to help upgrade child care facilities and increase the supply of child care in areas that need it the most. The plan also calls for expand a tax credit to encourage employers to build care facilities at places of work.

Digital Infrastructure

Biden wants to invest $100 billion in order to give every American access to affordable, reliable and high-speed broadband.  The proposal would build a high-speed broadband infrastructure in order to reach 100 percent coverage across the nation. The plan would aim to promote transparency and competition among internet providers.  Biden says he is committed to working with Congress to reduce the cost of broadband internet and increase its adoption in both rural and urban areas.

Workforce Development

The President would allocate $100 billion to workforce development — helping dislocated workers, assisting underserved groups and getting students on career paths before they graduate high school. It would provide $40 billion to retrain dislocated workers in high-demand sectors, such as clean energy, manufacturing and caregiving. It would invest $12 billion in programs to train the formerly incarcerated, create a new subsidized jobs program, eliminate sub-minimum wage provisions and support community violence prevention programs.  The proposal would also funnel $48 billion into apprenticeships, career pathway programs for middle and high school students and job training programs at community colleges.

Veterans Hospitals and Federal Buildings

The plan would provide $18 billion to modernize the Veterans Affairs’ hospitals, which are on average more than 40 years older than a private sector hospital, according to the White House.  It also calls for $10 billion to modernize federal buildings.